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Lester Piggott: Champion apprentice Marco Ghiani recalls the day he received trophy from legendary rider

Lester Piggott, 11-time champion jockey and nine-time winner of the Derby, died on Sunday aged 86; Ghiani was presented with his champion apprentice trophy by Piggott on what turned out to be one of the nine-times Derby-winning jockey and 11-time champion’s final public appearances

Marco Ghiani has reflected on the “really special” moment he received his champion apprentice title from Lester Piggott on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot in October.

On Sunday the racing world collectively paid tribute to the legendary Piggott, after his family announced he had died peacefully in Switzerland at the age of 86.

Popular Italian Ghiani, whose parents own a pizza restaurant in his homeland, was not even born when Piggott was in his pomp, but is fully aware of the indelible mark he made on the sport.

Piggott on board Nijinsky before victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Image: Piggott on board Nijinsky before victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket

“When I was a child we were really clueless about racing, but when I came to work with horses we started seeing Frankie (Dettori) and Lester and Willie Carson, so he’s always been there,” he said.

“Everyone knew who Lester was.”

Despite barely being able to speak English at the time, Ghiani took the brave decision to leave home and enrolled at the British Racing School aged just 16, joining Luca Cumani’s stable in Newmarket.

The now 23-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2021, accumulating 51 winners during his title season including at Royal Ascot victory in the Hunt Cup aboard Real World, who he went on to steer to Listed and Group Two success at Newbury and York respectively.

On Champions Day he was presented with his title trophy by Piggott on what turned out to be one of the nine-times Derby-winning jockey and 11-time champion’s final public appearances.

Crepello and Piggott proved an unbeatable combination in the 1957 Derby
Image: Crepello and Piggott proved an unbeatable combination in the 1957 Derby

Ghiani admits it is a day he will never forget.

He added: “It was really special and a very good experience. Obviously he (Piggott) didn’t talk much, but it was a privilege to receive the trophy from him.

“To get the title from him, it was a great day and will be in my memory forever.”

Sky Sports

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